My children bring me great joy. No doubts there. But something I struggle with is my time no longer being my own. I miss being spontaneous, opportunistic, unpredictable…following leads and diversions. Roaming without purpose. I can’t be that person. Most of the time. But bi-monthly when the London chapter of Lapidus meet I get to return to that self.
It starts on waking. There are no children to stir or lunches to pack for school. I shut the front door behind me and skip to the station. I get a much earlier train than I need. I buy the Saturday newspapers (a treat in itself), discarding the sections that weigh me down and hold no interest. Sport, property, business, cars are left in the carriage. On disembarking in Waterloo I turn my back on the underground. I won’t take a tube unless I have to. I don’t have little ones flagging and I’m in no rush. My journey is mostly metaphysical as I travel back in time to where my many selves lived, laboured and loved. It starts with the Royal festival hall and memories of time spent along the river bank. I get in to my stride with the walk across the jubilee bridge. I’m on my way. I spot my first blue plaque on villiers street. Rudy Kipling’s old domicile (1889-91). It caught my attention only a couple of years ago. The plaque sits above a shop front and is easily missed.I always see it now. I pass by St Martin’s in the field where on Thursdays twenty years ago I’d go to finish my assignments ahead of my travel writing class. I once bought a pair of cord culottes (fashionable at the time) in the craft market overhead. Depending on my route I might pass theatres where I ushered or cafes I was wooed in. At Trafalgar square I’ll remember long waits for night buses…somethings I was happy to drop with the years.
Walking through Covent Garden so early I get to see the street performers set up. I don’t delay because I want to hold on to the wonder I feel when I see yogi levitate.
And so it was two weeks ago. I remembered we were having a guest speaker join us all the way from Canada. I didn’t take note of her name or specialism. I thought I’d receive the workshop as a gift instead. Margot Van Sluytman is a poet and expressive writer facilitator.
Petite and sassy,she told us her first nations name is Raven Speaks. Perfect nomenclature. And Margot spoke. She told us a little of her own story, the awful act that robbed her of her dad when he was 40, her mother 36, leaving four children fatherless. She was 16. And her journey through pain. Then years later, as a successful poet and practitioner of therapeutic writing, standing at a podium collecting a prestigious award she felt an ache in her chest and lower back, in her father’s wounds. She knew there was more healing to do. Days later by some sort of divine intervention she is in contact with the man who killed her father. A friendship ensued that has informed her work in restorative justice since.
She introduced us to Sawbonna, an African word meaning “I see you. I see your essence”. Sawbonna helped with her own healing and now she offers it to others in their healing journey.
There appeared to be factors outside of us at play that had me in that group with Margot at the end of a monumental week for Ireland, and especially for Sligo, my home county. Prince Charles visited the seaside town of Mullaghmore, 36 years after his grandfather, Lord Mountbatten and others in his party were blown up on his boat by the IRA. I remember the day clearly. I was playing at a friend’s house. There were a lot of activity in the sky – helicopters certainly. Adults were shaking their heads and speaking in low tones. There was sorrow and there was shame. And the shame stuck around.
The people of Sligo wanted to say how sorry they were that Mountbatten was murdered in their community, a place where he felt welcome and safe. They weren’t responsible but they were sorry. I watched the TV coverage from afar. The world could see for themselves the beauty that drew the Royals to the region in the first place. I felt proud and lonely too.
Sat in the Poetry café on that Sat morning, when Margot gave us the space to write I wrote about that day in ‘79.
So we got to experience Margot. Her story and her presence. She deftly gave us responsibility over what we made of the morning. I found that very liberating. I made much. A value she mentioned and rates is WONDER, it was a homecoming to see the word crop up on her flip chart.
Our Lapidus group disbanded at lunch time. The day was still young. I had made an arrangement to meet my lovely cousin visiting from Seattle in Euston Sq. There was time enough to get lost and find my path again so I edged my way northwards weaving a route through streets, some new to me, others familiar. I took these pictures as I went along.
I’d suggested we meet at the “Welcome Collection” – a draw “for the incurably curious”. Last visit I sat in a circle with a few other curious visitors and we learnt about infectious diseases namely Ebola and smallpox. We were given a sheet and asked if we could inoculate against something what would it be. I went for Apathy. Wouldn’t a world free of indifference be a better one.
We wandered through the Institute of sexology exhibits then sat at a desk in the reading room and wrote postcards.
Curiosity stirred we set off next to find a quirky café I’d read about in a newspaper a couple of years ago. I saved the revelation until Sophie was with me. My directions were vague so we felt a sense of achievement when we found ourselves by “The Attendant”, formerly a Victorian toilet. We had cappuccinos and polenta cake in the shadow of a cistern and between two urinals!
Ah, the day that kept on giving. Back on the train and homeward bound we popped in to our local pub for a glass of Guinness and a quick catch up with some friends before dashing back to the house to receive a bunch of pals who I’d asked to pop by from 9.30. And home in time to kiss my kids good night.
*Of course this type of day is only possible with the coöperation and generosity of my husband who understands that days like this one keep me sane.